Getting to Know Me
I met you today through IFTTT, oddly enough, and would like to see you again. Tomorrow morning, perhaps?
Before you get too excited and start imagining our beautiful future together, I must admit that my life is a bit of a mess. I don’t live on my own, in fact I’ve had to move back in with my father because I’m going through a divorce which began practically the moment I found out I was pregnant with my husband’s child. That’s a long, sad story, instead of going through the gory details, you should know, it’s a girl! She’s due December 15th — a Sagittarius, I hope!
However, I feel it’s important to share a brief history of my recent past, as these are the things which haunt my mind and encompass the major hurdles I deal with in my daily life. (I know I said brief, and you’re looking at your scroll bar shaking your head at me… but believe me…. this is brief.)
This is the section of my life when my love and compassion for others lead me into a world where I discovered my biggest strengths and weaknesses all at the same time. Basically, I stepped in to take care of my boyfriend’s parents, because I felt that he and his two sisters would not be able to provide adequate care for their parents. His father had a stroke while caring for his wife, which left him blinded, with short-term memory loss and dementia. My boyfriend and I moved in with them, and I spent 24/7 looking after two adults I barely knew, assisting them with their most private of daily functions, and attempting to remember every detail of their lives as we watched their brains and bodies deteriorate.
Five months into the caregiving, we were married. Our goal was to be married before his mom passed away, but we were a week too late. She had early-onset Alzheimer’s which took her sense of taste and smell early on and made it difficult for us to feed her a healthy amount of calories, she lost more than half of her bodyweight, and her body finally gave up. However, it was a brief moment out of the house, at a lovely park… we had sandwiches and picnic blankets. I have some lovely photos, but it’s hard for me to remember this as a brighter time in my life, as I mentioned before, we are getting divorced.
Caring for One.
After my mother-in-law passed away, my caregiving duties became increasingly stressful. Her husband had been using her as his little ray of sunshine, and I now had to remind him daily that she had passed. His blindness, diabetic neuropathy, short-term memory loss and dementia caused him to become a ticking time bomb that would explode for any of a million reasons, and it was my job to keep an eye on the fuse and put it out quickly, if possible. The constant changing pain in his feet drove him to lash out at me and threaten to run away from home and into oncoming traffic. The police and I became closer each time they helped me persuade him to come back into the house. Once, I was awoken by an officer who found him pant-less in his underwear after accidently letting the dog loose in front of the house instead of the backyard. Sounds comical, but he was frustrated by being unable to find his home and embarrassed to be half naked in front of his neighbors. This was one of the rare times I thought we had settled enough to let me get some sleep. He complained about my caregiving and blamed all of his problems on me. My only comfort was to remind myself that he was not in his right mind, and that I knew I was doing everything as best as I could. I imagined that he was my father, and how would I treat my father if this had happened to him.
The Breakdown Begins.
Eventually, I could no longer handle the stress and felt that I was merely on auto-pilot with my caregiving duties. I had not been able to sleep for 10 months; when I acknowledged the reality of my life each morning after a brief rest, anxiety overwhelmed me, and I’d throw up before going to help my father-in-law get up. We finally convinced my sister-in-law that we needed to find a home with professional care for him. He moved in to a great place, but a month later, passed away from a heart attack in his sleep. After my father-in-law passed, it took me a while to be able to see and communicate with my real father due to the emotional abuse during caregiving and having used memories of my father as my coping method.
Our First Home.
My husband and I quickly purchased our first home and moved my brother, his wife and daughter in with us. We were both so tortured from this experience that it destroyed our marriage, and I lived in a world alone in my mind. I’d prefer to not discuss this right now, as I became someone very unlike myself and did things I — and any one who knows me — never believed I was capable of doing. That is what can happen when you give up everything you have for everyone else and have no support in return to help you back onto your feet.
The Behavior Hospital.
I could not enjoy my own home. I could not please anyone. I was a slave to the dishes and chores and cleaning, but it was never enough, never appreciated, and never ended. I felt worthless. Powerless. Alone. I was not allowed to spend some time away with my father. If this was to be how the rest of my life was to be, I would rather be dead. I tried to explain this to my family I lived with. They said I needed to try harder. There was no strength left in me, and absolutely none left to waste on this vicious downward cycle. My only options were to get out, one way or another. Since I could not leave, I asked for permission to kill myself. I was denied, and the police were called on me. They took me to a behavioral hospital where I continued to beg to go home, so I could sleep. Instead I spent the night in the hospital, and in the morning, I realized this place was wonderful! Full of people who actually would listen to you and encouraged self-worth. I had no responsibilities besides to think about myself and to care for myself. It was like the vacation a needed so badly! I realized all I had needed to do was to have left the house sooner, and all this drama could have been avoided. The therapists asked me why I felt I needed anyone else’s permission to leave my house, or even kill myself (which they obviously discouraged). They gave me some fun medicines, but I didn’t really need them long term. What I needed was to remember who I am, take back my power and self-worth, and let go of the perfect romance and happy ending I had created in my mind. I needed to look at reality and accept that I can’t account for the actions and behaviors of others, but I can learn about and establish boundaries to keep myself safe from being taken advantage of ever again.
Outpatient Therapy and Moving Out
Since then, I’ve gone through a lot of therapy to discover why I felt that it was then my responsibility to sacrifice my life for someone else’s parents, and then for my brother’s family. I’ve come to appreciate these experiences, as they taught me how truly strong I am and how the love within my heart can be used to paint a beautiful picture over the darkest of times. The key is to see the reality of others, love them, but not sacrifice my needs for theirs at every turn. I’ve been living with my father, who is ever encouraging and supporting me through the ups and downs of my pregnancy.
In my group therapy sessions, I realized only certain types of people will seek help to get their lives better. Therapy is looking honestly at yourself and your flaws and being willing to change. Change is difficult. Most people will instead tell themselves that they are a victim of their environment and refuse to take control of their own lives. I can now accept that, and choose to avoid being the camel that carries them across their desert.
Wraping it Up
Anywho, I’m doing well now. Just got a job, and can’t wait to pop this baby out, so I can cuddle her! I promise I’ll be writing about more positive things, as that’s where I choose to keep my thoughts. If anyone reading this relates to anything I’ve said here, please tell me a little about yourself. My goals are to become a better writer, better understand myself, and live a better life. Hope I’m not alone in that!